German Reichsbürger “Normal people who believe far-right fascist ideas”

Lee Heidhues 3.22.2023

Police in Germany continued their effort to beat back the far-right extremist Reichsbürger scene.

Last December German authorities conducted the first publicized raid on this extremist group.

It’s obvious the authorities in Berlin this movement is dangerous and a threat. The government is taking the threat this organization presents seriously. One of the towns raided today was Chemnitz, scene of violent anti-immigrant demonstrations in August 2018.

Excerpted from Deutsche Welle 3.22.2023

Authorities on Wednesday carried out searches linked to the far-right extremist Reichsbürger scene across eight German states and in neighboring Switzerland.

Reichsbürger supporters at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

A policeman was injured after shots were fired during one of the operations against the group, which was said to have been planning a coup against the German government. 

According to media reports, the officer was injured in a raid in the town of Reutlingen in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg. 

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann tweeted that 20 properties had been searched and highlighted the danger posed by armed members of the group.

“A police officer was shot. That shows how dangerous these missions are. The weapons authorities are obliged to disarm Reichsbürger [members].”

The raids on Wednesday were said to have been directed against five suspects believed to belong to a terrorist organization. Officials said the individuals were from the cities of Munich and Chemnitz, the Hannover region, and Switzerland. 

Police also searched the premises of 14 people who were not suspects.

A total of 25 suspects were taken into custody after raids in December against members of the Reichsbürger movement. They are accused of membership of or support for a terrorist association and aiming to topple the German state.

At the time, officials said they believed that the network extended further and that more arrests would be made.

A cache of arms seized by German authorities during raids at Reichsbürger sites
What is the Reichsbürger movement?

The Reichsbürger movement consists of a diffuse set of groups that do not recognize the authority of the German state. 

Members of the Reichsbürger movement deny the existence of Germany’s post-World War 2 Federal Republic. They believe the current state is no more than an administrative construct still occupied by the Western powers — the US, the UK, and France. For them, the German Empire founded in 1871 still exists and so do Germany’s pre-WW2 borders.

DW spoke to Tobias Ginsburg on Wednesday, who wrote a 2018 book based on several months spent undercover among Reichsbürger and other German extremists. 

Ginsburg said that the clampdown by authorities was “way too late and way too little,” saying this was demonstrated by the fact that many suspected members are people of means, often with important jobs. 

“These people … arrested now are not like fringe-y, dopey neo-Nazis or conspiracy theorists,” Tobias Ginsburg said. “These are policemen, members of the German army, stuff like this. Normal people who believe those far-right fascist ideas.”

The New York Times ‘Hitler Tamed by Prison 12.21.1924

“Stegner said.that 100 years ago in Germany, after the failed 1923 Munich Beer Hall Putsch that led to the imprisonment of a young Adolf Hitler, few would have foreseen at the time that Hitler would be leading the country around a decade later.